Gal Guardians Demon Purge Review
Despite having questionable nutritional content, millions of people still eat sweetened cereals like Lucky Charms for breakfast. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Breakfast?! You’ve just described dinner, buddy. You’re also wondering what this has to do with games. Let me explain. You know how every once in a while, Lucky Charms tosses in a special edition marshmallow bit (General Mills calls them “marbits” FYI), like a red balloon or sparkly gems? I thought about this while playing Gal Guardians Demon Purge. It’s a pretty standard Castlevania clone with one or two special marbits.
Let me drop the tortured analogy. Gal Guardians Demon Purge is an action platformer/Castlevania-like about two schoolgirl sisters, Maya and Shinobu. The narrative is pretty straightforward. The sisters find themselves in a demonic, nightmare version of their university. Their mission is to rescue their fellow students and defeat the end boss, Kurona, bringing everyone and everything back to normal. Each level they complete rewards them with the satisfaction of saving one more of their friends and unlocks the next level. The students the sisters rescue are amusing and overall the story isn’t too dark or oppressive, despite the presence of monsters and demons.
Compared to some of the more sophisticated examples in the genre, Gal Guardians’ level design is pretty linear. There are some hidden areas, shortcuts, and secrets but the game clearly pushes the player forward. It’s usually clear where to go, and how to get back after respawning. There’s some retreading of past areas, too. The environments have the kinds of complications common to Castlevania-inspired games like spikes, churning machinery, water hazards, and moving platforms. Artistically, the levels feel somewhat bland and lack a strong design hook.
Gal Guardians Demon Purge has one or two unique mechanics that help it stand out. First, the player controls both Maya and Shinobu, switching between them as needed. Shinobu uses long-range weapons and is great for dispatching enemies from a distance. She’s also fragile. Maya, on the other hand, uses bladed weapons up close and personal, and she can crouch and unlock new areas. Switching back and forth is instant and overall, the mechanic is a fun one. There is no leveling system, but each sister has alternative weapons and collectibles that grow in power.
Couple with switching between sisters is the way Gal Guardians handles defeat in combat. If one sister falls, the other spawns at a checkpoint and can revive the other where she died. If the second sister dies before resurrecting her sibling, they both spawn at the checkpoint, but there are limited wipes before it’s game over. Dialing back to easy difficulty gives the player unlimited deaths.
This sibling revival idea is both smart and a bit game-breaking. Especially during the game’s excellent boss battles, being able to bring both characters into the fight is important. It’s a little game-breaking because bosses don’t regain health when you die, and, provided you can stay alive long enough to resurrect your sister, it makes them pretty easy.
Platforming for the Challenged
Actually, a lot of Gal Guardians Demon Purge seems geared toward casual players. Most non-boss enemies are easy to take down, the levels are streamlined, and although platforming can be a challenge, essentially having two chances balances some frustration. By the way, I’m not complaining about the game’s accessible difficulty. There are plenty of brutal Metroidvania/Castlevania games out there. It’s nice to just breeze through a relatively short and simple example of the genre.
Aesthetically, Gal Guardians’ retro-style visuals are fine but fairly generic. The sisters and NPCs are low-detail, pixelated figures and this is one area where I really wanted to see some additional detail and character. The sound design, English voices, and music are extremely repetitive. The sisters’ repertoire of vocal cues is very limited.
Sometimes, It Hits the Spot
In most ways, Gal Guardians Demon Purge sticks very close to the retro-Castlevania template. The best parts of the game are those ideas and mechanics which add something new, like the swappable sisters with unique strengths. For those gamers tired of uber-challenging action platformers, Gal Guardians Demon Purge’s streamlined gameplay and accessible difficulty might be a welcome change, if not a particularly revelatory experience.
Side note: Gal Guardians Demon Purge was originally titled Grim Guardians Demon Purge, but the name was changed after release due to copyright conflicts with the Grimguard franchise. Gal Guardians is part of the Gal Gun series developed by Inti.
***PC code provided by the publisher for review***
- Accessible difficulty
- Swappable sisters mechanic is fun
- Excellent bosses
- Might be too easy for some
- Very repetitive music and voices
- Bland backgrounds and character models